BEWARE THE "FIX" OF UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE

March 21, 2007

Many policy makers believe that a universal health care system will bring better care to millions of Americans, but they're wrong, says Gerald A. Anzalone in the Journal News (New York).

Looking abroad can show what really characterizes universal health-care systems:

  • Ireland boasts the richest economy in Western Europe, but in a country of about 4 million people, there are 17 neurologists and it takes up to a year to get an appointment to see one for the initial visit.
  • It takes about four months to get an MRI scan, about 14 weeks for diagnostic ultrasound and surgical cases are put on waiting lists.
  • Canadians pay roughly a 50 percent income tax to help support their national health-care system.
  • In Ontario, most Canadians who can afford it purchase private extended health coverage rather than relying upon the government-sponsored programs to avoid similar problems.

Further, government-sponsored health-care programs in our own country have serious problems, says Anzalone:

  • Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage created more confusion that even Medicare representatives could answer.
  • Over-utilization of Medicaid programs break the backs of state budgets,
  • Recent news reports about the horrific conditions and abysmal patient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, our nation's flagship of government-managed health care, hardly inspire confidence in a government-run medical system.

Instead of trying to replace one bad system with another, the government should:

  • Encourage even more competition among private insurers so that doctors and providers receive fair reimbursements for good medical care.
  • Provide direct subsidies for people who purchase health insurance that they can afford and that is portable from job to job.
  • Encourage the use of tax-sheltered health savings accounts for those want to control where and how their health-care dollars are spent.

Source: Gerald A. Anzalone, "Beware of the 'fix' of universal health care," The Journal News, March 18, 2007.

 

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